1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I had some great teachers in the natural sciences at high school in The Netherlands, and they and we did some crazy experiments. Somehow I was, and still am, fascinated by the fact that we can make molecules without actually seeing individual ones. I was trained as a chemical engineer, but I always liked the chemistry part of it most.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
I would be seriously tempted to become a biochemist to be part of the incredible revolution that is happening there in genomics and proteomics. The chemistry in there is truly intriguing. Or breeding quarter horses.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
From an academic point of view I would like to say to train the next generation of responsible chemists who will make better and safer products and drugs, and find new ways to minimize our pressure on the environment. In my research I try, for example, to make better and more potent contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), so that patients are better diagnosed with less (toxic) materials.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Darwin. Why? It is quite amazing that he was so right in his theory on evolution.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
If an experiment is helping one of my co-workers in the lab with a measurement counts the answer is, some weeks ago. A real experiment by myself was in the summer of 2005 when I worked for 2 months in Dr. M. Andrews’ lab at McGill, Montreal, Canada.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
I cheat a bit, but I would take a series of 6 books about the Roman empire by McCullough and a CD by Gidon Kremer “Hommage to Piazzola”.
Frank van Veggel is in the Department of Chemistry, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and works on luminescent nanoparticles for lasers, optical amplification and biolabels. Nanoparticles are also developed for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).